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U.S. Marines with the III Marine Expeditionary Force Band and members with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force 15th Brigade Band perform together during the 25th Annual Combined Concert at Camp Foster, Okinawa, Japan, Nov. 17.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Zachary Larsen

III MEF Band and JGSDF Band host the 25th Annual Combined Concert

19 Nov 2020 | Courtesy Story The Official United States Marine Corps Public Website

Amidst COVID-19 mitigations, the concert was hosted in continuation of the strengthening bond between the bands. In previous years, the concert has been held in different venues across Okinawa. This year the concert was recorded to provide a virtual concert due to COVID-19 mitigations within the local and U.S. Military communities. The concert will be debuted online within the coming weeks.

“We play a combined concert every year with the 15th Brigade Band,” said Staff Sgt. Ryan San Juan, a Hialeah, Florida, native and a clarinetist with the III MEF Band. “Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we can’t have an audience in person.”

Due to the current COVID-19 environment, each band had to adjust to the new guidelines. Practicing and performing were conducted differently from years prior. In preparation for the concert, both bands measured an equidistant space between each musician to maintain social distancing. In addition, this year they practiced for months individually, learning to master the annual concert in an adjusted setting. In years past, the bands practiced together months prior to the event. However, this year they practiced together a single day - the morning of the concert.

“I have performed with Marines before and enjoyed working with them every time. I have made friends with Marines, and I love seeing them during our concerts.” JGSDF Sgt. Eri Somoyama, a 15th Brigade Band clarinetist

The concert provided the two bands an opportunity to perform together side-by-side to uphold the 25 year tradition. The bands' harmonious performance was a display of the Marines’ and 15th Brigade Band’s alliance and unity within the musical arts.

“Today was amazing,” said JGSDF Sgt. Eri Somoyama, a clarinetist with the 15th Brigade Band. “I have performed with Marines before and enjoyed working with them every time. I have made friends with Marines, and I love seeing them during our concerts.”

During the concert they played a variety of music, both individually and together as one unified band. The pieces that the combined bands played included Olympic Fanfare and Theme, Malaguena, and EO1.

According to San Juan, the annual combined concert was the first major joint concert of the year with the 15th Brigade Band. Despite the new adjustments to align with COVID-19 mitigation efforts, the concert was a success and a strong start to the coming of a new year.

“Music is an international language,” said San Juan. “It brings people together. Even if we can’t understand [the 15th Brigade Band] completely, it brings us together.”